Thursday, November 29, 2007

EB Main Streets annual meeting today

East Boston Main Streets will hold its annual meeting today from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Maverick Landing Community Room, 31 Liverpool Street. Board members will be on hand to answer questions.

The organization is a non-profit corporation whose mission is "to create a more vibrant business district by initiating private and public improvements, promoting commerce, and supporting efforts to improve the quality of life for all who live, work and do business in East Boston."

Click here to see some of the improvements that the group has funded.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unwilling to part with booty

The East Boston Yacht Club is one of eight local yacht clubs that still owes the state outstanding rent money, according to the Channel 5 web site,

A couple of weeks ago the TV station reported that 16 private yacht clubs were holding out on paying rent on the publicly-owned land they occupy because they wanted to negotiate with the state, but Richard Sullivan, the commissioner of conservation and recreation, said there would be no negotiating. The clubs owed a total of $400,000 in back rent, but since the story first aired about half of that has been paid.

The state also wants the yacht clubs to sign agreements allowing public access.

You go, Martha

Thankfully, Attorney General Martha Coakley is paying attention to auto insurance companies in the wake of the state's deregulation of the industry.

Massachusetts insurance commissioner Nonnie Burnes assured us that rates wouldn't go up after announcing her system of "managed competition," but Coakley pointed out that the average driver's cost would've gone down 11% under the previous system of regulation and will now drop 6% (not, as Burnes had recently said, 7.7%) under the current framework.

Coakley said the difference means $200 million more in the pockets of insurance companies and their agents. She is pressing the insurers to review and reset their prices, and she is clear that, "At this stage, it is too early to make a determination about whether managed competition will advantage or disadvantage consumers."

Jets fly to title game

East Boston High School's football squad is now 11-0 after a come-from-behind playoff victory last night against Blue Hills Regional HS, 38-34, at Stonehill College in Easton. The Jets erased a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit on their way to the Division 3A semifinal win.

Eastie will play Saturday against greater Lawrence for the D-3A title.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poem for a gray day

My November Guest
by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

An autumn feast

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Ten people came by my place Thursday for dinner -- the first time I'd ever hosted a family holiday of any sort.

I attempted to create the traditional dishes of the meal from scratch as much as I could. I made mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, and, of course, there was the turkey, which I brined and roasted. My guests brought additional dishes, including some traditional Italian fare, like eggplant parmigiana, calzone and macaroni pie.

We also had several types of apple cider -- heated and mulled; hard; pasteurized and unpasteurized -- as well as some wine, limoncello and other beverages. Desserts included apple pie, pastry, cookies, a rum bundt cake, a limoncello-inspired Italian cake and the aforementioned pumpkin pie.

All in all, the meal and the day were a big success. Now everyone wants me to host Christmas.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Finally coming home

It was 57 years ago this week that an East Boston family received a telegram from the US Army that said Sgt. Agostino DiRienzo was missing in action while fighting in Korea. Later, the status of the 33-year-old was amended to "presumed killed in action," as his unit had been attacked by Chinese forces along the Nammyon River on Nov. 1, 1950.

The Boston Herald reports that a joint North Korean-US operation and forensic investigation has revealed that DiRienzo's remains have been found, and his nephew, East Boston resident Richard Faiella, remembers his uncle in the story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Could go either way

The Hubster is hosting Thanksgiving this year -- noble effort, or catastrophic mess? We shall see.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gambling away culture

Today's Boston Globe has a story that looks at how states have jumped into the casino-gambling game in the past 15 years. With the Supreme Court's 1987 ruling that Native American tribes could legally operate gaming enterprises, state governments realized that hundreds of millions of dollars were changing hands within their borders and the states weren't getting a slice of it.

Governors and legislatures around the country passed laws and negotiated with tribes for a part of the action. The Globe story specifically looks at Florida, where the Seminole tribe has run casinos for the past few years. The Sunshine State recently reached an agreement with the tribe for a cut. Gov. Patrick, the article says, has jumped out ahead of the issue and embraced the idea of casinos because he wants Massachusetts to reap some benefits from the start.

Aside from that, there were a few things in the story that I think are a sad commentary on modern American culture. One member of the Seminole Tribal Council said:
"We used to be able to live on the game from the land. Now we're living on the gaming on the land. It's a different commodity that we now have to manage. We used to hunt deer. Now we're hunting deals."
If the Indian in the old commercial shed a tear when trash was tossed from the window of a passing car, imagine his reaction to hearing that? What a depressing and pathetic state of affairs.

Then there are these words, from a 63-year-old woman who lost $100 and then won $400 in the span of a few minutes in a Florida casino:
"I've done Disney for like nine years - I get bored. The older generation doesn't have a lot to do. It's here, it's tempting."
Where do I begin? There was a time when the wisdom of a culture's elders meant everything, and parents and grandparents lived in extended families. Old age was a time of great respect and pride. Now we abandon the elderly and dismiss our cultural history. With so much time on their hands and no role in our society, senior citizens look for any diversion possible. I'm not sure if it's more disturbing to see the rows of elderly women lined up at slot machines or the fact that this particular person visited Disney World nine times before getting bored.

And then there is another issue. A recent study concluded that there are 35 million people who are hungry in America -- that's right now, and in this country. How we casually gamble money away or buy unnecessary consumer goods and still manage to sleep at night is beyond me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Report critical of St. Mary's sale

Two reports that the Archdiocese of Boston commissioned to review the closing and sale of parishes are sharply critical of many of the transactions, including the sale of St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church in East Boston.

Today's Boston Globe quotes retired judge Kevin M. Herlihy, who looked into the St. Mary's affair, as saying the diocese actions "arguably constituted malfeasance, a dereliction of duty." The church, at the corner of Saratoga and Moore streets, was sold for $800,000 to a local photographer last November and then "flipped," or resold, three weeks later to an evangelical congregation for $2.65 million.

The diocese response -- "there were mistakes" in the handling of the East Boston sale but said "no one here benefited from those mistakes" -- translates as, "We were not underhanded, just stupid."

The story on the web site includes links to copies of that report, as well as one on the handling of church closings throughout the diocese.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

EBSB going public

East Boston Savings Bank got the OK from the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday to make an initial public offering of stock worth about 44% of the bank's value.

A Boston Business Journal article quotes bank chairman Richard J. Gavegnano as saying that "the move will increase the bank's capital, 'enhance earnings' and support its growth in commercial and construction lending."

A majority of the bank will still be in the hands of its parent company, Meridian Interstate Bankcorp, Inc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An ugly charge

An ad and a story in the Spanish-language newspaper La Semana seem to claim that racism is behind neighborhood attempts to deal with Tequila's Bar & Grill.

Joe Mason forwarded me clippings from the newspaper and, from what I could make out in the article and in an ad, Tequila's owner Luis Vasco is blaming his establishment's troubles on people in Orient Heights who are not happy that the business is owned by a Latino.

He appears to ask supporters to show up to the Boston Licensing Board public hearing about Tequila's that is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the church hall at St. Lazarus on Ashley Street. On the agenda are proposals to roll back the bar's closing time from 2 a.m. to midnight and to suspend the liquor license for a period of time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Making us proud

I called this one, and Bobby Casaletto can back me up.

It might say that Tyronne Pruitt's home town is Brockton on his Boston College football team bio page, but he spent most of his childhood in East Boston and was a member at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club. I worked at the Club for 13 years, leaving in the fall of 1997, and I knew Tyronne, as well as his three brothers.

Tyronne was at the Club virtually every day, and he was a great kid. Unlike older brother Gary -- who was just about the most outgoing and funniest person you ever want to meet -- Tyronne, the youngest of the foursome, was reserved and deliberate. He was an excellent athlete, but I'd seen a dozens of excellent athletes in my time as a member and staffer at the Club. Tyronne was unique in the attention he gave to his studies.

In the time after the Club opened at 2:30 and before we started running events, I distinctly remember Tyronne -- then in the 5th, 6th and 7th grades -- grabbing a table, pulling out his homework and getting it done, patiently and neatly. Other kids did homework at the Club, but I have no memory of any particular youngster doing it most every day -- except Tyronne. He cared about his grades, and he was an A student.

He was a smart athlete, too ... good at most everything he tried. It was football, however, that I saw as the perfect match for Tyronne. We only played tag football on the cracked asphalt outside the building, and I never heard Tyronne indicate that he loved the game above any other sport, but the combination of brains, build and ability led me to say aloud that I thought he would be an exceptional football player someday -- probably a running back. I know I said this to my friend and co-worker Bobby Casaletto.

Tyronne is now a senior at Boston College. He's not a running back now, but he was in Brockton, where the family moved not long after I left the Club. He was all-scholastic in his junior and senior years at Brockton High, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each. He was also team captain those two years, which speaks to his character.

A defensive standout at linebacker in high school, BC put him in that spot and he started every game (except yesterday: sprained ankle) over the past two seasons for the nationally-ranked program. Tyronne is a political science major, and I'm going to guess that he invests some time in his studies as well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tequila's gets around new sprinkler law

On Thursday local fire officials throughout Massachusetts are empowered to shut down bars and nightclubs that haven't installed sprinklers, which are required by a state law passed after the Station nightclub tragedy in Rhode Island. Establishments with a capacity of 100 or more were given three years to comply, and now the time is up.

The Globe reports that more than half of the bars and nightclubs in Boston have not complied, though some have waivers because they are in the process of doing so. Several dozen businesses could be shut down in a few days.

Interestingly, the article points out that a few places, "including Tequila's Mexican Bar & Grill in East Boston ... were allowed to split their spaces, so that the legal capacity of each half is below 100, exempting them from the sprinkler requirement."

Tequila's is the subject of a Licensing Board public hearing to review recent troubles there and possibly roll back the 2 a.m. closing time. The hearing is on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the church hall at St. Lazarus on Ashley Street.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Another battle in the taxi wars

Cab drivers in Boston are lobbying for the right to refuse passengers who "make them feel unsafe." Beyond the evident discrimination problems that this proposal brings up, District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina believes that such a rule would be an out for taxis to avoid taking fares to East Boston.

Council President Maureen Feeney sounds more sympathetic to the cabbies in today's Herald, and she intends to schedule a hearing on the proposal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Library renovation or relocation?

An article in today's Globe on the future of the Boston Public Library and its branches had this line: "Library officials ... are looking into consolidating two small East Boston libraries into one larger building."

My understanding is that a renovation is planned of the Meridian Street branch, the older and bigger of the two, but the article seems to imply that both branches would relocate to a new building. However, maybe the expansion of the building is what is referred to here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Connolly takes City Council spot

Though little fanfare preceded it, there was an election today. All 13 spots on the Boston City Council were on the ballot, and one incumbent was dumped.

Felix Arroyo, an at-large councilor since 2003 and a long-time community activist, was knocked out by John Connolly. a lawyer and former teacher who lives in West Roxbury.

Incumbents have won easily in all of the district seats, except in Allston-Brighton, where Jerry McDermott isn't running for re-election. In that race, Mark Ciommo topped Gregory Glennon.

Tyranny at home

One may disagree with the function of a panel like the US Commission on Civil Rights, but the Bush Administration's complete disregard for the agency's mission -- which is to prevent discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin -- and the way the commission was set up to operate -- an equal split between members of both parties -- is more evidence of this president's tyranny of our government.

A story in today's Globe outlines how two of the commissioners switched their party affiliation from Republican to independent so that Bush could appoint two more members of the GOP without going against the letter of the law, which holds than no more than four of the eight members can belong to one party. The president effectively spit at the spirit of the law.

Time and again, the inner workings of federal agencies have been tinkered with in order to politicize the infrastructure and tip the balance toward conservative ideology. These actions are beyond the scope of any previous administration. Amazingly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently told Congress that the agency was not interested in receiving increased funding to help it do a better job. This in the wake of recall after recall of dangerous products from China!

The Bush Administration has proven again and again to be clearly and unabashedly on the side of big business in every facet of government. The president's behavior and that of his minions is tyrannous and we, the people, should have ousted him from power long ago.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Goliath comes to town

Friends of mine have often wondered when Starbucks would come to East Boston, debating the meaning of the ubiquitous coffee chain's arrival in our decidedly blue-collar neighborhood. Well, it seems as though the wait is over.

The international java giant is in the process of opening a site at the Honey Dew Donut shop on McClellan Highway, a spot that would include a drive-through window. True, this location wouldn't be typical for Starbucks, which often positions itself in high-foot traffic areas, but I don't see Meridian or Bennington streets as optimal locations for the company. Plus, where in Eastie could they set up shop and not be 20 feet from a Dunkin' Donuts? It seems that out on the highway, with most patrons remaining in their vehicles, makes the most sense.

According to a notice forwarded to me by Joe Mason, there is a Zoning Board of Appeal hearing on Starbucks (in tandem with the Logan Chautaqua Corp., which is apparently a group in a licensing agreement with the coffee chain) at 9:30 a.m. on November 27 at City Hall.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A chance to speak up

The City of Boston Licensing Board has scheduled a hearing to discuss problems with Tequila's Mexican Bar & Grill, which a number of people have written negative comments about in recent months on this blog. Located at 964 Bennington Street -- at the site of what used to be the Kailua Hawaiian Restaurant -- Tequila's seems to be a late-night trouble spot. One web site also notes that the food and service are pretty bad as well.

The hearing will be held on Nov. 15 at 6:15 p.m. at the St. Lazarus Church hall on Ashley Street. On the agenda will be proposals to roll back Tequila's closing time to midnight rather than 2 a.m., to confine the service of alcohol to those customers who are dining, and to suspend the restaurant's liquor license for a period of time.

Also of interest, the Cosmopolitan Lounge in Day Square -- formerly Logan's Lounge -- is applying to extend its license to include live entertainment seven nights a week. The city's Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the request at City Hall on Nov. 13 at 11:30 a.m.

Finally, word is that Cafe 303 on Sumner Street is applying for a liquor license.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Eastie company poses risk to local environment

A company with facilities in East Boston has been fined for failure to comply with hazardous waste management laws, posing "a significant risk to human health and the environment."

The Environmental Protection Agency levied a $116,331 fine against Amex Inc., which operates sandblasting facilities at 256 Marginal Street, along Eastie's waterfront and right next to Piers Park.

According to an EPA press release, Amex "failed to determine whether the wastes it generated were hazardous, conduct inspections of its hazardous waste storage area, have satisfactory emergency preparedness planning and properly label hazardous waste containers. The company also lacked adequate training for handlers of hazardous waste, had an incomplete hazardous waste training plan and improperly diluted sandblast grit containing hazardous concentrations of lead as a substitute for appropriate treatment of the waste."

The company's failure to train its personnel properly "created the potential for mismanagement of hazardous waste, which could have resulted in the release or improper disposal of hazardous waste," according to the EPA.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Basile takes office today

Carlo Basile, the newly elected state rep. from East Boston, is scheduled to be sworn in today at noon at the State House. Basile topped a field of four candidates in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the general election.

Basile was selected by 1022 of the 1079 people who turned out for the Oct. 23 election, while 51 voters wrote in candidates and six left blank ballots, according to the city's web site. He takes the seat that was occupied by Anthony Petruccelli, who won election to the state senate after Robert Travaglini resigned from that office in the spring.

In Theo we trust

Mike Lowell is an excellent third baseman, and I'd love to see him back in that spot for the Red Sox next year. He was our most consistent hitter this season and led the team in RBIs, while in the field he makes every play, looking smooth and confident. He was our World Series MVP and is universally regarded as a class act.

However, those who are leaning on Theo Epstein and Sox management to re-sign Lowell, now a free agent, seem to be ignoring some facts. The team's current ownership took over in 2002 and has moved forward since then with strategies that have resulted in two championships, ending an 86-year drought that many New Englanders considered a birthright.

It's clear that principal owner John Henry is willing to shell out cash to sign key players. What should also be recognized is that management is willing to move people whenever they feel it's what is best for the long-term health of the franchise -- a policy that includes not signing older players for too many years. They were right on Johnny Damon, who batted .316 in 2005 with the Sox and then fell to .285 last year with the Yankees and .270 this season. They were right on Pedro Martinez, who has won a total of 27 games with the Mets since leaving here.

It appears that the Sox want to offer Lowell a two-year contract, probably with a nice raise, but some believe that he will look around the league for a three- or four-year deal. Lowell will turn 34 in the off-season. It's quite unlikely that he will ever again have a year as good as this one and for the 2010 season will we want a 36-year-old with deteriorating skills to be eating up a big chunk of payroll?

I'm a big fan of Mike Lowell, and I hope he stays around, but it is somewhat hypocritical to cheer this year's World Series win at the same time that one is demanding that the Sox go against the strategy that brought them to victory.